At an age when many people are thinking of retirement, Joya Fields decided to begin a new career as a stager.
Stagers are the people that go into a house before it is put on the market and make it more appealing to buyers. Even in this hot real estate market, stagers are in high demand because in a 2021 RESA survey of 4600 properties, 73% of staged properties sold over list price and staged houses sold approximately 9 days faster than unstaged.
Joya always had an eye for design. As a child, she would use the stairs of her home to create an apartment building for Barbie and her friends. Each apartment was unique.
But it wasn’t until her brother-in-law, who is a real estate agent, asked for her help in staging a home that sat on the market too long that Joya thought she could make a living with those same designing skills. After Joya worked her magic, there were multiple offers in a week.
With a few more successes and encouragement from her family, Joya decided to make a career change.
Early Career as a Writer
For many years, Joya worked as a published author and freelance writer. In fact, she has over 35 books to her credit, most of which are romantic suspense novels. She has has written over 50 articles for various magazines including Maryland Family, True Confessions and True Romance. However, when her husband retired 10 years earlier than they had originally planned, Joya knew she needed a career that paid more money. “I knew it was this, work full-time or start waitressing,” Joya said with a chuckle.
Becoming a Professional Stager
But before she could begin as a serious stager, Joya knew it was important to get certified. Being certified to stage houses is not required in Maryland, but Joya thought it would make her more marketable. So, she signed up for a Home Staging Class at the Home Staging Resource www.homestagingresource.com
She credits that class as the reason she is so successful. “The teacher was so good,” Joya said. As a lifelong learner, she saw it as a great way to learn the basics. “You need to know the rules in order to break the rules,” she said.
With her natural eye towards design and the knowledge from her course, Joya started working with several area real estate agents staging homes. She invested money from her savings and began purchasing in items that could be used to stage homes.
Although successful, Joya decided to join forces with one of the other students from her online staging class. She merged her business with Shamrock Hill Design.
Joining a Team
Shamrock Hill consists of four women responsible for design and staging and a stay-at-home dad that works as their mover. He’s responsible for moving everything they need for staging from the warehouse. The company stages homes in Baltimore County, Howard County, Carroll County and Anne Arundel County.
“The difference between being an interior designer and a stager is that one creates a home for you to live in, the other helps buyers see themselves living in a home,” Joya said.
One of the benefits of working with a company is that she has a whole warehouse at her disposal to stage homes. There are pillows, rugs, pictures, etc., everything she needs for staging a home. Many of the items come from Costco. Home Goods and At Home, but sometimes they find a treasure at Goodwill. If they need books for staging, they get them from the local library.
The other benefit of working with a company is that there are other people to do the paperwork and marketing, two tasks that Joya does not enjoy. “Now, I get to do what I really like,” Joya said.
There are many levels of service available. Many times she will work with the furniture the home owner already has and just move it around or add to it. However, Joya can also come in and refurnish a vacant home to sell. “Each house is different and each one tells a story,” she said.
Recently, Joya decided to expand her business by becoming a certified Residential Transition Specialist. With this training Joya will be able to help older individuals with “right-sizing” or “down-sizing”. This training focuses on helping people declutter and get their homes ready for the market.
Joya loves working with older people and often finds herself spending hours talking to them about their lives when she goes in for a consultant.
Joya stages about 10 houses a month and “I fall in love with every one of them,” Joya said. The process begins when the real estate agent engages her as a consultant. Joya prepares a 15- page report detailing what needs to be done in each room. Then, it is up to the home owner to decide whether or not to hire her to implement the report.
There are multiple levels of service and Joya works with the homeowner to determine what they need. Even though she charges a set fee, rather than a percentage she says, “We love it when people make more money.”
Her Other “Full-Time” Job
But Joya doesn’t spend all her time staging homes. Joya and her husband Joey moved in with their son to help take care of their grandson. They live on a large piece of land in Randallstown. Joya said when she comes home from her appointments she puts on her jeans and goes to work. She’ll spend the rest of the day working on the farm feeding chickens, gathering eggs and working in the garden.
Her other responsibilities involve being “Gigi” to her grandson. She loves the flexibility of her job which allows her to attend his t-ball games, school events and just spend time with him. “I didn’t want a 9 to 5 job. I wanted something with flexibility.”
Joya was a little nervous starting her new career. She had to take money out of her family’s saving with no guarantee that she would be successful. However, she credits her teacher with setting her up for success. Although at times she doubted herself, her instructor said, “Fake it till you make it.”
Joya continues to be supported by her co-workers as well as fellow stagers in the staging Facebook group. “When I had a problem recently and couldn’t figure out, I put it out to the group,” she said. They had great ideas that help her resolve her issue.
“It’s a great community of women helping women,” Joya said.
Joya is also still finding some time to write. She is responsible for the company blog and has also submitted a proposal for her farm story. “It’s really been bugging me. I need to get back to writing.”
Whatever the challenge, Joya meets it with a smile and a desire to learn. “I love learning,” Joya said.
If you are interested in finding out more about being a stager, you can find out more information at the Real Estate Staging Association.
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